Autopsy performed on orca calf

03:03, Sep 17 2011
STRANDED: The missing orca calf was found stranded in Duck Creek south of the Whangaparoa peninsula.

A post-mortem on a young female orca or killer whale washed up north of Auckland proved has proven inconclusive but she had not eaten for a long time.

The 2.4 metre mammal stranded at Whangaparaoa Peninsular where she died. The body was taken to Massey University's Marine Pathology Unit where marine biologist Dr Karen Stockin carried out a post-mortem.

"There was nothing obvious and no signs of trauma in the post-mortem," she said.

Orca Calf
STRANDED: The missing orca calf was found stranded in Duck Creek south of the Whangaparoa peninsula.

The animal's three stomach chambers were empty and she was in a poor state.

"It had not eaten in recent days... and was of an age where it would have needed to be with a pod of orca to survive."

Tissue and blood samples were taken and will be sent for testing with results likely in two weeks.


The young animal was spotted on a mud bank in Duck Creek around 5pm on Thursday night by a member of the public.

Locals waded into the river and tried to keep the animal wet and afloat until conservation staff could get there, but it died before they arrived about 7.30pm.

According to marine scientists, the chance to perform a post-mortem on an orca is rare due to their size.

Adult males can reach up to nine metres and weigh several tonnes.

The young orca sparked a search in the harbour after a member of the public spotted the calf swimming by itself last Thursday.

Massey University PhD student Sarah Dwyer tracked the orca for some time, at the request of Whangarei Orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser but it disappeared.

Police, Coastguard and members of the public all searched for it.

Thought to be around two to three years old, the calf would likely have been weaned but Dwyer, a common dolphin expert, says as very social creatures being alone was not ideal for its well being.

Visser said there were two separate pods of orca in the area at the time that it could have been related to.

Members of the public who see a marine mammal stranded or have concerns about their wellbeing should call the 24 hour number 0800 DOC HOT says Martin.

Auckland Now